Tonalist and Zivo, first and second, respectively, in the $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) at Belmont Park, could meet up again in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I), their trainers said the morning of Sept. 28.
However, neither of trainer Jimmy Jerkens’ entrants in the Sept. 27 Gold Cup, Wicked Strong and V. E. Day, are likely to be making the trip to Santa Anita Park Nov. 1 for the Classic. Wicked Strong unseated jockey Rajiv Maragh after clipping heels in the early part of the race and V. E. Day finished a troubled sixth.
Trainer Christophe Clement said Tonalist is likely to make his next start in the BC Classic, but a final decision must await a discussion with owner Robert S. Evans and an evaluation of the Tapit colt’s condition. The Gold Cup victory gave Tonalist an automatic berth in the Classic as part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win & You’re In” promotion.
“Of course we’ll keep him eligible to the Breeders’ Cup,” Clement said. “I’ll talk to Mr. Evans later this week. The idea would be to train to the race, but we have plenty of time to talk about it.”
Meanwhile, trainer Chad Brown said he’d “like to take a shot” at America’s richest race with the hard-trying New York-bred Zivo.
Clement said he was thrilled with 3-year-old Tonalist’s impressive charge to win the 1 1/4-mile Gold Cup by 1 3/4 lengths going away in his first try against older horses.
“He’s been improving all year long,” Clement said. “As a trainer, it’s very exciting because you can see him improving through the year. The main thing is the horse. Obviously, he’s a very nice horse and he’s the one who has been improving and does the running.”
In June, Tonalist became Clement’s first classic winner when he took the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) by a head.
This summer at Saratoga Race Course, Tonalist was second in the Jim Dandy (gr. II) in July and third in the Travers (gr. I) in his previous start Aug. 23. Clement removed the blinkers from Tonalist for the Gold Cup, and the colt responded by making a steady charge from last despite having to check while entering the far turn and in mid-stretch.
“It’s very exciting,” Clement said of Tonalist’s Gold Cup win. “He came out of the race in good order. We’re all thrilled and excited about it.”
Zivo, the Suburban Handicap (gr. II) winner July 5 at Belmont, lagged behind a lively pace and was forced to steady near the three-eighths pole after Wicked Strong unseated Maragh. He mounted a willing rally in the stretch to finish second.
Brown said, “Zivo came back great. He ran terrific. In my eyes, it was another career best race for him. He had some trouble, as did a handful of other horses when (Maragh) went down, but regained his composure and restarted his race at that point. He was second best yesterday, but a good second.”
Zivo, who progressed through his New York-bred conditions methodically before his breakthrough in the Suburban, may get a crack at the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Brown said he will discuss it with owner Tom Coleman.
“I’d like to take a shot in the Classic, but I have to talk to Mr. Coleman,” said the trainer. “He’s doing so well right now, and it’s one of the best races in the world. Why not?”
Jerkens reported that both second choice Wicked Strong and V. E. Day came out of the Gold Cup in good order despite their problems in the race.
“Both horses came back good,” Jerkens said. “V. E. Day lost an awful lot of ground early on. Post 10 is tough; I think it’s even tougher on a come-from-behind horse. (Jockey Javier Castellano) wasn’t able to tuck him in turning in on the backside and then he was stacked wide. He got him in a little bit on the turn, but then he had to go and swing out again wide when you lose the most ground. I think with a better post he would have gotten a check.”
Jerkens said Centennial Farms’ Wicked Strong, the Wood Memorial (gr. I) winner who was second by a nose to stablemate V. E. Day in the Travers (gr. I), could be done racing until 2015.
“It doesn’t look like we’re going to California with either one of them,” Jerkens said. “There’s a chance we might give Wicked the rest of the year off. He’s OK and everything, but he’s grinded it out pretty good and we hope to have a nice handicap horse next year.”
The trainer said options remain open for Magalen O. Bryant’s V. E. Day. He could possibly return to turf in the $250,000 Red Smith (gr. IIIT) Nov. 15 or remain on the main track against 3-year-olds in the $200,000 Discovery Handicap (gr. III) Nov. 1, both at Aqueduct Racetrack.
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